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Architectural paint research



Architectural paint research forms a core part of our work, and the requirement to undertake research is becoming an increasingly common condition for obtaining project funding and listed building consent.  APR contributes to the understanding of the building by interpreting the architectural, decorative and social history of the site. This allows for the different approaches of conservation and restoration to be explored, examining aspects such as replication of original paint finishes and issues of paint compatibility. Hirst Conservation has undertaken a wide range of architectural paint research projects that include public and private historic buildings, parks, cinemas and theatres.

Processes involved:

  • Paint research is based on archival research, which can be used to explore how key events may have influenced the decorative history of the site;
  • Paint samples are taken from architectural features, and the sample locations recorded before they are mounted in a clear embedding resin;
  • Photomicrographs are taken of the samples, which are cross-referenced with archival material to identify the periods at which specific layers occur. Tables of stratigraphy help to illustrate how individual decorative schemes may have appeared;
  • Additional micro-chemical testing or polarising light microscopy may be carried out to identify binding media or pigments present;
  • Later paint layers are sometimes removed to expose windows of the underlying paint scheme/s, in order to better understand the appearance of the decorative scheme, especially if polychromatic or stencilled schemes are identified;
  • Depending on the needs of the client, colour palettes and digital reconstructions of historic schemes can be produced.

Some of our projects include:

  • Delapre Abbey, Northamptonshire: Investigations into the historic decorative schemes in a suite of five rooms to the South Range to inform conservation proposals;
  • Stowe School, Buckingham: Investigations into a scheme of Baroque wall paintings by Francesco Sleter c1740;
  • Dover Town Hall: Investigation into presence and extent of significant late 19th century Burges scheme, including digital reconstructions;
  • Oldham Coliseum Theatre & Heritage Centre: Paint research including uncovering areas of original stencilled decoration;
  • Grimsby Town Hall: Architectural paint research of the Assembly Hall and Banqueting Room, including archival research and consultancy;
  • Christ’s College, Cambridge: Research, sampling, analysis, uncovering and provision of colour references for three heraldic achievements including the Great Gate and Master’s Lodge;
  • Wimpole Hall: Appointed by the National Trust to undertake paint research to former living quarters and stable-blocks to determine historic decoration;
  • Palace of Westminster: Architectural paint research to numerous spaces across the Parliamentary Estate, including Elizabeth Tower, Speaker’s Court & Sovereign’s Entrance;
  • Cardiff Castle: Research into the William Burges interior of Cardiff Castle and the exterior of the clock tower.